Sunday, April 26, 2015

Education, Economics and History

Here is a nice essay on the benefits of higher education from the New York Times.


Also from the New York Times is Mankiw on the economics of trade and the politics of trade.


Here is more from Pseudoerasmus on cotton and economic growth, highlighting McCloskey’s argument about the role of cotton in the Industrial Revolution.


Speaking of cotton and economic growth, The Half Has Never Been Told won two awards last week. I feel like the boy who said the emperor has no clothes, except I keep saying the Baptist has no evidence.


It is not a great work of history; it is not good work of history, and it should be obvious to any historian who reads the book.




3.       Baptist does not make a pretense of using evidence to support some of his conclusions. To me the most obvious problem, one that even non-historians should be able to see, is the way that he makes up an estimate of the economic importance of slavery. Many people have suggested that the book shows how slavery was central to the development of the American economy. That argument hinges on this calculation, and the numbers in that calculation are clearly just made up. To me, this tendency to just make things up is the most damning of the problems with the book. Although it can’t be proven, I suspect that every book on history contains some error. We all make mistakes. Consequently, problems with historiography, facts and citation are matters of degree. It is difficult to say at what point such mistakes start to raise doubts about the book as a whole. On the other hand, making up numbers is not a mistake. It is not like misremembering a date, or name, or citation. It demonstrates a fundamental disregard for the role of evidence in historical argument.

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